Borough Market 

 Gourmet Heaven for Everyone 

With the cost of long-distance rail tickets these days you might be surprised to find me recommending that the next time you visit the London you forego the usual tourist traps and instead take a saunter across the river to the Borough of Southwark and in particular to the wonderful Borough Market. But having stumbled upon it thanks to an accident of geography a few months ago, I've vowed to return again and again. What an utter delight it was to discover a gem that is largely overlooked and ignored by tourists. It's time, I think, to put that right.

There has been a market in Southwark since the 13th Century, although it only moved to its present site, nestled beside both Southwark Cathedral and London Bridge, in 1755 when the old Borough High Street Market was closed by Parliament. Bakers, butchers, green grocers and so on have long sold their wares there, but for many years Borough Market was solely a wholesale market, albeit a busy one. Indeed it even features in an old music hall song of Marie Lloyd where the boy she loved up in the gallery was employed at 'the Boro'. These days things are different. While there's still a busy wholesale side to the market, for the thousands of visitors who make their way to the market each week it's individual 

stallholders  and the many little shops, the suppliers and artisans that populate the main market that are the main draw. There's a huge selection of different types of stalls and shops. All sourcing reliable foods of the highest quality. Many of the stallholders are producers themselves. And offer cheeses from all over Europe and the United Kingdom. Or the widest selection of fish imaginable. Or dozens of flavours and types of olive oil. There are bakeries selling German breads, or artisans with their homemade pates, preserves or pork pies. There are patisseries galore. One of the best is the Flour Power City Bakery which offers its 'world famous brownies'. Now, I can't claim to have tried every brownie in the world, or even every one at Borough Market but, my word, they are delicious; rich in cocoa and not too sweet and huge in size. So huge, in fact, that one can easily feed two people.

In addition to the many stalls and stands that huddle, shaded by umbrellas, beneath the rabbit warren of railway lines and the old market canopy above, there are countless shops that seem almost to be carved into the walls of the old warehouses that surround the central market. Here you will find the fascinating Neal's Yard Creamery. 

 Its old-fashioned white-washed brick interior is piled high to the ceiling with huge cheeses of all kinds. And hungry customers queue to try a sample, or buy a piece of the many varieties on offer while others simply observe in wonder. The Rabot Estate Chocolate Shop - a fairly new and welcome addition to the market's periphery and a wonderful place to stop for a treat. Inside lies one of the best chocolate shops around.

 With everything displayed in wooden crates or stacked on barrels and with samples and advice freely available, even the most ardent chocolaholic (and I count myself in that number) will learn a thing or two. If you're the type of person who just munches on their chocolate you may think the prices are a bit steep. But for those who prefer to linger over their chocolate, letting it melt on the tongue, or nibbling away at it, will appreciate the care, attention and quality that goes into every one of the products on offer. The adjoinig cafe serves light meals, snacks and drinks all boasting chocolate or cocoa as an ingredient. But there are many eating options elsewhere in the market with countless stalls offering food to eat right out of the pan and several restaurants too. And there are a couple of pubs - the Globe and the Market Porter which both offer a decent pint and a good glass of wine as well as something to eat.

The market itself is run by a charitable trust whose trustees are, by edict, local people.There are strict guidelines for would-be market traders. Food must be of a high enough standard, must be entirely traceable

right back to farm, field, or plantation. And a Food Selection Committee oversees all applications. Rents are kept at what is regarded as a reasonable rate, and any surplus made by the market is passed to the London Borough of Southwark for the benefit of residents in the parish of St Saviour's (Southwark Cathedral).

Borough Market has a unique atmosphere and a picturesque quality and it's no surprise that, in addition to the many foodies, restaurateurs,  and families that find a haven in Borough Market.  Many production companies choose to come there to film. In fact the whole area feels

like a huge filmset. In recent months it has been used as a location for the BBC's drama series Spooks and Nigella Lawson's newest series, Kitchen. The market appears in both Bridget Jones films where Bridget's flat is above the Globe pub. The Market Porter served as the location for the Third Hand Book Emporium in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The market is well worth a special trip and with so much nearby (the Southbank, the Monument and many Dickens and Shakespeare sites) can easily be worked in to a day in the area. The market itself is open on Thursdays from 11 am to 5 pm, on Fridays from 12 noon to 6 pm and on Saturdays from 8 am to 5 pm. Regulars prefer Thursdays or very early on Saturday to avoid the large crowds.

The nearest overland mainline station is London Bridge, and there are plenty of buses serving the area. You can walk along the Thames Path on the Southbank and the nearest tube stations are London Bridge or Borough. But I prefer to take the tube to Monument, on the other side of the Thames, and to walk towards Southwark across London Bridge because this affords a magnificent view of many of London's best sites. On a sunny day there can be no better way to arrive.

Whichever way you prefer to arrive, be sure to try the brownies …

Full details of the market can be found on the Borough Market website.